Beyond Boundaries

Report from the Futurist

Futurist

Robert Baldock, 43, a London-based partner with Andersen Consulting, where he does scenario planning; author of "Destination Z: The History of the Future" (John Wiley, 1999).

Scenario

"The constraints that once defined business -- time, place, form -- are eroding. Which means that traditional boundaries between industries and companies are also eroding. In the UK, we have supermarkets that have gone into banking. They haven't just put branches in their stores; they've actually set themselves up as banks. British Gas, which used to be a monopoly supplier of natural gas to households, was broken up by the government. One of the new companies, called Centrica, still sells gas, but it's gone into several other businesses as well: It even offers a credit card called Goldfish. The term 'industry' is obsolete."

So What?

"In services, only the nimble will survive. And brands will become more important than ever. The most successful companies will be those with the most portable brands. The model is Virgin Group Ltd., Richard Branson's company. Virgin flies planes, sells soda, and markets products through Virgin Megastores. As portable brands become more important, so will flexible business models. Even without a huge physical infrastructure, you will be able to have a huge impact in the marketplace. I've coined Baldock's Law, which says that the best companies will have a 1% market share per employee. In its first few months of operation, Virgin Cola achieved a 5% market share in Britain -- with just five employees."

Futurology Decoder Key

"History is a company's worst enemy. To think about the future, you must abandon tradition and convention. The trick is to decide among alternative futures. My advice: Understand that there are no guarantees, make a bet on one possible future, and then throw everything you have into it."

You can reach Robert Baldock by email (robert.l.baldock@ac.com).

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